In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Self-Esteem

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • History
  • Definition
  • Implicit Self-Esteem
  • Connections with Self-Concept
  • Pursuit of Self-Esteem
  • Fragile Self-Esteem
  • Protective Function
  • Status-Tracking Property
  • Status-Signaling Property
  • Assessment of Trait Self-Esteem
  • Assessment of State Self-Esteem
  • Etiology
  • Developmental Changes
  • Indicators of Psychological Adjustment
  • Subjective Well-Being
  • Physical Health
  • Academic Achievement
  • Occupational Success
  • Crime, Delinquency, and Antisocial Behavior
  • Loneliness
  • Relationship Quality and Stability
  • Personality Features
  • Rejection Sensitivity
  • Risky Decision Making
  • Physiological Outcomes
  • Interpersonal Behavior
  • First Impressions
  • Relationship Maintenance Behaviors
  • Prosocial Behavior
  • Aggressive Behavior
  • Gender Differences
  • Cultural Differences
  • Racial/Ethnic Differences
  • Self-Esteem Improvement

Psychology Self-Esteem
Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Christian Jordan, Jessica J. Cameron
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 January 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 February 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0124


Self-esteem is one of the most widely studied topics in psychology with thousands of publications concerning how individuals feel about themselves. This exceptionally diverse literature has examined numerous issues surrounding self-esteem, including its potential causes, consequences, and correlates. Despite the considerable empirical attention devoted to self-esteem, there are important issues that require additional attention from scholars, such as the structure of self-esteem, group differences in self-esteem, the connection of self-esteem to important life outcomes, and the heterogeneous nature of self-esteem. It is important to note that self-esteem is most often considered to be a dimensional construct, with “low self-esteem” and “high self-esteem” representing the ends of a continuum. For ease of explanation, researchers often refer to individuals with relatively low scores on measures of self-esteem as possessing “low self-esteem,” and to those with relatively high scores as possessing “high self-esteem.” This convention is followed throughout this article.

General Overviews

Self-esteem has attracted a great deal of attention from social-personality, developmental, clinical, and evolutionary psychologists in recent decades. The reason for this considerable attention is most likely the fact that self-esteem is associated with a number of important life outcomes, including psychological adjustment, academic success, physical health, and relationship satisfaction (though whether self-esteem causes these outcomes remains controversial). Kernis 2006 is an invaluable resource for those who are interested in learning more about self-esteem research. Other notable resources for background information on self-esteem are Zeigler-Hill 2013, which provides an overview of the self-esteem literature, Baumeister 1993, which focuses on low self-esteem, and Leary and Tangney 2012, which integrates self-esteem with other aspects of self and identity. Bosson and Swann 2009 presents a concise but comprehensive overview of the self-esteem literature.

  • Baumeister, R. F. 1993. Self-esteem: The puzzle of low self-regard. New York: Plenum.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4684-8956-9

    This edited volume consists of thirteen chapters covering various issues connected with low self-esteem. This is an exceptional resource for those interested in low self-esteem.

  • Bosson, J. K., and W. B. Swann Jr. 2009. Self-esteem. In Handbook of individual differences in social behavior. Edited by M. R. Leary and R. H. Hoyle, 527–546. New York: Guilford.

    This handbook chapter presents a concise but comprehensive overview of the self-esteem literature, focusing in particular on research that has been conducted by social-personality psychologists.

  • Kernis, M. H. 2006. Self-esteem issues and answers: A source book of current perspectives. New York: Psychology Press.

    This edited volume consists of fifty-six concise chapters covering various aspects of self-esteem. This is an extremely valuable resource for scholars and students interested in empirical research concerning self-esteem. This book is notable for its breadth and for bringing together the leading authorities from several diverse areas of psychology.

  • Leary, M. R., and J. P. Tangney. 2012. Handbook of self and identity. 2d ed. New York: Guilford.

    This edited volume consists of thirty-one chapters covering an array of issues relevant to the self. Many of the chapters are relevant for scholars or students interested in self-esteem.

  • Zeigler-Hill, V. 2013. Self-esteem. Hove, UK, and New York: Psychology Press.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203587874

    This edited volume consists of nine chapters covering the central aspects of self-esteem. This is a valuable resource for scholars and students interested in current empirical research concerning self-esteem.

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